Case Summary & History
Family & Relationships
Case: Hollingsworth v. Perry
STATUS: Victory, U.S. 9th Circuit Court
On May 22, 2009, two same-sex couples filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging California’s Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to prohibit marriage by same-sex couples. California’s Governor and Attorney General agreed with the plaintiffs that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. Judge Vaughn Walker permitted Proposition 8’s supporters to intervene as defendants, and also permitted the City and County of San Francisco to intervene as a plaintiff to represent their unique governmental interest in marriage equality. NCLR, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the District Court, supporting the argument that Proposition 8 violates the federal Constitution.
After a three-week trial that took place in January, 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on August 4, 2010, that Proposition 8 violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws. He also denied Imperial County’s attempt to intervene in the case.
Proposition 8’s supporters appealed the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit agreed to put on hold the implementation of Judge Walker’s ruling pending its consideration of the appeal. The Ninth Circuit also asked the parties to address in their briefs and at oral argument whether the Proposition 8 supporters have “standing” that is, whether they have the legal right to appeal the case. NCLR, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed another amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit, arguing that it should uphold Judge Walker’s decision.
The Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in the case on December 6, 2010. On January 4, 2011, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of Imperial County’s attempt to intervene, and asked the California Supreme Court to clarify whether California law gives ballot initiative sponsors the power to override the litigation decisions of the Attorney General and the Governor.
Proposition 8’s supporters petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. On December 7, 2012, the Court granted certiorari, agreeing to hear arguments about the case, including whether the supporters of Proposition 8 had standing to appeal. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to appeal the district court’s ruling, and remanded the case to the Ninth Circuit with instructions to dismiss the appeal. This means that Judge Walker’s decision, that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and must be struck down, will stand, and same-sex couples will once again be able to marry in California.
More about the U.S. Supreme Court arguments and decision
- Read an FAQ on marriage for same-sex couples in California put together by NCLR and other LGBT advocacy organizations.
- Read NCLR’s response to the Supreme Court decision holding that the Prop 8 supporters lacked standing to appeal.
- Read the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion holding that the Prop 8 supporters lacked standing to appeal.
- Read NCLR’s amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.
More about the Ninth Circuit arguments and decision
- Read NCLR’s response to the Ninth Circuit decision declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional.
- Read NCLR’s response to the Ninth Circuit decision blocking release of Prop 8 trial video.
- Read Judge Ware’s decision to uphold the ruling.
- Watch the video of the Prop 8 oral argument.
- Read the amicus brief filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal by NCLR, the ACLU and Lambda Legal on October 25, 2010 (PDF).
- Read summary and legal analysis of the Ninth Circuit appeal oral argument.
More about the District Court trial
- Read the decision by Judge Walker issued August 4, 2010 (PDF).
- Read the amicus brief filed by NCLR, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal on February 3, 2010 (PDF).
- Read the amicus brief filed by NCLR, the ACLU, and Lambda Legal on June 26, 2009 (PDF).
- Read the California Lawyer article, “Challenging Prop. 8: the Hidden Story.”
- Read the American Constitution Society issue brief, “The Prop 8 Court Can Have it All: Justice, Precedent, Respect for Democracy, and an Appropriately Limited Judicial Role” (PDF).
- Read NCLR’s FAQ on the Perry case and the fight for marriage equality in California (PDF).
Read daily summaries and legal analyses of the trial proceedings: